Drug Checking Program Needs to be Scaled Up

Feb 19, 2022 | Prevention

Checking illicit drugs for deadly toxins is the best option to prevent fatal overdoses without a safer supply, but that service should be expanded to rural and remote communities in British Columbia, says the manager of a drug-checking program being evaluated by the BC Centre for Substance Use.  Jenny Matthews said drug users who live in non-urban areas often can’t get their drugs tested for contaminants, including high concentrations of fentanyl and, increasingly, benzodiazepines, for which the overdose-reversing medication naloxone is not as effective.

Currently drug-checking programs in B.C. use two technologies: take-home test strips that detect the presence of fentanyl or benzodiazepines; and a device called a spectrometer. Results are available in five to 10 minutes.

The results from the tiny sample used for checking is entered into a provincial database and used to track trends and generate alerts especially if they see a rise in toxicity.

For Matthews, raising awareness about getting drugs tested is crucial for users smoking, snorting and injecting them.

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